The other night while I was out at dinner without the kids, my girlfriend wrote me in desperation asking for advice about tantrums. See, this girlfriend of mine has never met my kids, so I’m guessing my blog made her think I’m an expert. She has no clue that my kids, especially Super, can be master tantrum throwers! While her impression of my expertise is just an illusion, it got me thinking about what advice I could give about getting kids to behave and I came up with three things I think are the most helpful to me. Funny enough, none of them are my own. I learned each “trick” from a different mommy friend. Thank goodness I have good pals!
1) Your word has to mean something.
First, “no” has to mean “no” every time you say it. Children are too young to understand the difference between a “no” about ice cream before dinner and a “no” about running in a parking lot. I’ve said “no” before and had my hubs tell me that maybe I should have said “yes,” but it was too late then. I had to stick to my “no” because the confusion wasn’t worth it. My boys are 19 months apart and if I wanted LG to stand beside me while I got Super out of the car seat, he had to know that I meant business when I spoke. Otherwise, we were going to sit in the house or buy one of those backpack leashes for kids. Neither was a real option.
Oh and I know kids can be persistent. They’ll want something, you’ll say “no,” and if you are a parent that gives in they’ll whine and ask until they just flat wear you down. Reward a tantrum, a whining episode, or a begging spree once and you’ll be fixing the issue for days.
And the tip applies to more than just a “no.” If you say “sit in your chair” and immediately after you say it your child gets up and does laps around the table while you watch and roll your eyes, your kid knows that you don’t mean what you say. While that sort of stinks, it will be really bad next time you seriously need your kid to listen. Wonder what that kid thinks “don’t take candy from strangers” means.
2) If you aren’t looking your child in the eyes when you are speaking to him, you might as well be speaking a foreign language.
We teach kids that we hear with our ears, but not my kids. If they aren’t looking at me when I speak to them then I’m just whistling Dixie. The friend that shared this tip told me to simply get on their eye level and look them in the eyes when you tell them something. It is a miracle how it works. Truly.
I know this trick and yet sometimes I get lazy. These are the times I have to repeat myself and still I get a bad result. I need to remember to stop what I’m doing, look my kids in the eyes, and explain appropriate behavior to them. It almost always works. When I don’t practice this parenting technique, I get what I deserve.
3) Hug it out.
OK, the hubs heard this trick, so I can’t take any credit whatsoever. He heard that when your child is in a full tantrum, if you comfort them it calms them down. Know what? It works.
Now, this is the opposite of what I would think to do, but I’ve seen first hand that punishing a tantrum just makes it worse. I’m not advocating giving in to whatever it was that started the tantrum (see tip #1), I’m just saying that maybe while your child is kicking and screaming on the ground isn’t the best time to teach him a lesson. You don’t have to give your child what he wants to give him what he needs. You can still say “no” while helping your child to get through a melt down. A spoon full of sugar and all that.
So those are the tantrum tricks in my bag. There is no magic wand that I’m aware of, but these are the three things I can say have had the most effect on my kids’ behavior. There are lots, and I mean lots, of Twitter users with parenting advice so maybe one of them has a magic bullet (I have a list of them under “parenting advice” on my account).
As for me, I’m sticking to my guns, looking my boys in the eyes, and hiding in the racks when Super throws a fit at Target. Please just keep walking if you see a small blond-haired boy screaming in the aisle and pay no attention to the woman peeking out from behind the maxi dresses.